Newsweek Hysteria

I had a browse around the American blogs for the first time in ages and noted there is an awful lot of nonsense about the Newsweek Koran story being written.

David Brooks in the NYT notes the two trends that have emerged in reaction to the story:

Countless conservatives say the folks at Newsweek were quick to believe the atrocity tales because they share the left-wing, post-Vietnam mentality. On his influential blog, Austin Bay writes that the coastal media “presume the worst about the U.S. military – always make that presumption.”

Excuse me, guys, but this is craziness. I used to write for Newsweek. I know Mike Isikoff and the editors. And I know about liberals in the media. The people who run Newsweek are not a bunch of Noam Chomskys with laptops. Not even close. Whatever might have been the cause of their mistakes, liberalism had nothing to do with it.

And then he turns to the left:

Meanwhile, the left side of the blogosphere has erupted with fury over the possibility that American interrogators might not have flushed a Koran down the toilet. The Nation and leftish Web sites are in a frenzy to prove that the story is probably true even if Newsweek is retracting it.

This, too, is unhinged. Would it be illegal for more people on the left to actually be happy that a story slurring Americans may turn out to be unproven? Could there be a few more liberals willing to admit that prisoners routinely lie about their treatment? (Do we expect them to say their time in captivity wasn’t so bad?)

I take the point although it has to be said that the story hardly sounded incredible did it? I mean when you first heard it what was your reaction? After all it is not the first time we have heard such reports and after the antics of Private England and others it really wouldn’t have been a shock.

But, he is also right that there is indeed a section of the left who wish to always believe the worst about the US and its military in particular. And he also has a point when he concludes that those who really deserve criticism are the Islamists who latched on to the story to stir up anti-American hatred:

The rioters are the real enemy, not Newsweek and not the American soldiers serving as prison guards.

Well yes, but I think Brooks is missing something out as well, something which was summed up well by Rafael Behr at the Observer blog:

It might be worth pondering which is more likely, over the course of time, to damage the image of the US in Afghanistan, persistent reports by Afghans themselves that they have been subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment, or one report in a news magazine.

Newsweek made a mistake with terrible, unintended consequences. They retracted. But their offence is not even in the same league as the ones alleged by multiple sources to have been systematically perpetrated inside Guantanamo Bay and US military facilities in Afghanistan.

And, in the broader context, Abu Ghraib prison as well.

The struggle against reactionary and violent Islamism is a fight on many levels and too many gifts have been handed to the enemy through the abuse, humiliation and torture of prisoners.

It would be better if those Americans who feel the urge to always take ‘a tough line’ put their obsession with scoring points with the mainstream media to one side for a while and recognise that those, of whatever rank or position, whose indefensible acts hand propaganda opportunities to the opponents of democracy, are traitors to the cause.